Ethics & Public Policy Center

Most Catholic Kids in Public School Leave the Church

Published in Legatus Magazine on May 1, 2019


What percent of applicants were accepted to Yale last year? Only 6 percent.

Pretty poor odds, right?

Now consider this: What percent of Catholic kids who never attended Catholic school will go to weekly Mass as adults? Only 5 percent.

Pretty poor odds, indeed. Consider further that most Catholic children (about 84 percent) will never attend Catholic school, and the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. We are losing the next generation of Catholics with stunning speed. By the time they graduate from public school, most young Catholics will head for the Church’s “exit” door, never to return. These aren’t faceless statistics: these are our children and grandchildren.

In spite of all the handwringing within the Church over why young Catholics are leaving the faith, few Catholic adults (or clergy) have faced this fact: public schools are toxic to our children, poisoning their self-understanding and undermining their faith. Why aren’t we talking about this? More importantly, why aren’t we fixing this?

Perhaps older Catholics, who grew up when the culture largely supported Christian living, fail to appreciate the magnitude of this cultural shift. Previously, the cultural undertow generally pulled most people along in the right direction. Today’s cultural undertow is a riptide, brutally yanking our children far from shore, submerging them in polluted waters and suffocating their faith. Public schools, along with entertainment, social media, consumer culture, and celebrity influencers, are our cultural waters.

Perhaps Catholic parents who attended public schools themselves think, “Well, I turned out all right,” not realizing that today’s public school environment is radically different.

The game-changer is public education’s reckless stampede towards full-blown gender ideology. Under the guise of “inclusivity” and “tolerance,” schools are indoctrinating our children in a false anthropology that is destructive, destabilizing, denies scientific reality (that we are male or female, forever), and contradicts Catholic teachings.

Put plainly, the public schools are lying to our kids about who they are. Rather than a unity of body and soul, the human person is presented as a jumble of disconnected dimensions such as “gender identity,” “sex assigned at birth,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation.” Gender ideology says it’s normal for these dimensions not to align. A person with a male-sexed body can identify as a girl, and insist that others address “her” by female pronouns; classmates must nod along, “affirming” the child’s chosen identity. Gender ideology also teaches kids that it’s normal for transgender-identifying persons to pursue body modification through cross-sex hormones or radical surgery. Put differently, teachers, counselors, and administrators will “affirm” a transgender-identified child, even if this means supporting a 16-year- old girl’s desire for a double mastectomy (because she feels like a boy) or an 18-year old boy’s hopes for genital surgery to validate his identity as a “real” girl.

Worse, schools are keeping parents in the dark about kids’ exposure to gender-affirming curricula, whether transgender-identified students are sharing restrooms or locker rooms alongside opposite-sex students, or even their own child’s “gender identity.” State legislatures and local school boards pass regulations forbidding school staff from telling parents if their own child shows signs of gender confusion unless the child consents. The schools comply under the pressure tactics and litigation threats of LGBT activist groups bent on influencing how other people’s kids understand themselves.

As parents know, there are no do-overs on childhood. One hour a week of religious education cannot possibly counter a child’s daily immersion in gender ideology. Parents, clergy, and Catholic philanthropists need to see what’s happening and enable all Catholic kids to receive a Catholic education. The alternative is to watch helplessly, as the Pied Piper of gender ideology pipes our children over the mountain, never to return.

MARY RICE HASSON, JD, is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow and the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. She co-authored, with Theresa Farnan, PhD, Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late (Regnery, 2018) and was a speaker for the Holy See’s panel on gender ideology during the 2019 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

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